Coming into the 2014 spring training the Braves appeared on track to remain one of the top pitching teams in baseball. Even after watching Tim Hudson leave to join the San Francisco Giants the rotation still was viewed as a strength. One glaring need that was talked about for quite a while was adding a top of the rotation type arm still. Hell, every team would like one. The truth is there isn’t enough of them for every team to have one. True No. 1 type starters, or “Ace’s” are not plentiful. The cost to add one is extremely high, threw free agency or trade.
The Braves decided to just go with what they had. After a few minor moves such as adding Gavin Floyd and Freddy Garcia they seen the rotation basically set with a few normal questions about the final spot going in. BAM! All of sudden Kris Medlen exits a spring training game and it’s not good. He’s slated for another Tommy John surgery and done for the year. (Making him a clear cut Non-tender candidate) Meds in my opinion was our staff ace, the guy I felt we could have counted on the most… Lost, gone for the year. Huge black hole atop the rotation. Then there is Beachy returning from injury, hoping to bounce back and return to form. I viewed him as a total Wild Card coming into the season, I felt the Braves shouldn’t have even counted on him. Well it’s possible he could be done as well.
Other concerns about the rotation. Gavin Floyd is also coming back from injury, who really knows how effective he’ll be or if he can manage to stay healthy. He’s already slated to miss about month or so as well. Mike Minor might begin the year on DL which is never good, but atleast it’s not anything to do with his arm… Alex Wood surely will be in the rotation to start the year after the mess that has happened, but he’s still really young and will have inning limits. Then you have Freddy Garcia, who I view as a pure depth guy, a guy who has no business being in a contender’s rotation for any longer than a couple starts…
So there sat Ervin Santana still on the free agent market, feeling the affects of the draft pick compensation. I don’t view the move as a panic move, I view it as a pure NEED. With the other teams interested not being contenders and all being in the AL it was the perfect fit. A chance to come play in Atlanta, a great place to pitch, a great chance to win, a great chance to have a good season. The Braves surrendered our 1st round pick which is 26th overall plus 14.1 million. Everyone in this organization from top to bottom is in this to win. It’s pretty clear after this type of signing. So what does Ervin Santana bring to the Braves…
First of all I view Ervin as a #3 type starting pitcher. He’s not on Meds level (IMO) but he helps make up for our losses. He’s gonna provide alot of innings for us which is needed and I think he’ll have a fine year pitching in the NL where there is no DH. Talking about guy who’s averaged 200 innings a year since 2008. He’s coming off his best season of his career. It’s another contract year and he’s looking to prove everyone wrong who passed on him this year and try and cash in next off-season. He walks a few more than you’d like and is solid with strikeouts, but he induces alot of ground balls and having Simmons behind him sure sounds nice. Ervin does come with some concerns tho, he’s had a up and down type career. He’s either pretty solid or pretty bad finishing seasons with a ERA in the 3’s or finishing in the 5’s.. Also there are some concerns about his arm falling off as well, BUT I don’t think that concerns the Braves much cause they wouldn’t have signed him if so. Lets hope he has another really good year helping us to playoffs and getting past the first round… At the end of the season we can slap the qualifying offer on him and receive a draft pick which makes up for the one we lost.
Free Agency has been underway for a few days now. So far the Redskins and the usually big spending Dan Snyder have gotten things right. Known for years of always making huge splashes by signing big named players who are usually on the decline to huge contracts. This time GM Bruce Allen is in total control of building the roster for new head coach Jay Gruden and his staff. Heading into free agency the Redskins truly have needs all over the place. For the most part they were able to retain most of there own key free agents such as Brian Orakpo, DeAngelo Hall, Chris Baker, and Perry Riley.
General opinion is that the Redskins need to re-make the offensive line. They started off by signing 310 pound Guard Shawn Lauvao formerly of the Cleveland Browns. He represents a immediate upgrade for the interior of the line. He’s likely taking over for Kory Lichtensteiger who will move inside to play Center, which is also noteworthy cause he’s a upgrade over the released Montgomery. Chris Chester looks to be safe as of now for the other guard spot but has young guys Gettis and LeRibus aiming for playing time real soon. The Skins have also reached a deal with former Raider Bruce Campbell. He’s a freak physically but it hasn’t translated to his play, he’s strictly a project at this point. The Skins still have interest in upgrading at the Right Tackle position which is currently held by Tyler Polumbus. He’s a very ordinary player who is better suited as a backup. The Skins have interest in former Bucc Tackle Donald Penn who would be sure-fire upgrade. There is also a chance the Skins decide to look for a new starting RT in the 2nd round of the draft. With all of this it looks like the Skins will be upgrading at 3 of line spots.
Fixing the Defense. Most consider the secondary the most dire need of the unit. But so far the Skins have only signed nickel (slot) Corner Tracy Porter who is 27. Former Raider is coming off a solid season and represents a upgrade. We seen all the safeties quickly come off the board without the Skins landing one. Ryan Clark looks to be like our best shot for safety help. He’s 34 years old and likely to be cheap. He’d represent a upgrade, but this is purely a stop-gap move. We need a experienced player on the backend to help the younger guys. So far the biggest move made by Bruce Allen is signing former Cowboy defensive lineman Jason Hatcher. The man can play all spots along the line and is a great pass rusher. Pass rush will make the secondary better. Hatcher is coming off a pro bowl season with 11 sacks. He is tho 32 years old, but the reason for not much concern is that he’s been primarily backup type for 5 previous years. There’s just not alot of wear and tear on him. The deal is for 4 years, but is structured so that the Skins can release him after two years without causing CAP issues. They also added depth with Clifton Geathers who is strictly a backup. Now to the Linebackers. Replacing London won’t be easy from a Leadership standpoint, his play fell off a ton in 2013 so it’s won’t be hard to upgrade from a physical standpoint. So far they’ve added former Texan Daryl Sharpton who is mainly a part time player but still young enough to be a average starter. They’ve also added former special team standout and captain of the Buccs Adam Heyward who helps the depleted Special Teams.
Adding some weapons for Robert is also on the list. They really could use a #2 type receiver to go with Garcon and Reed as the main receiving threats. Due to so many needs they had to aim a bit lower. They added a nice slot receiver who is a upgrade over the veteran Santana Moss (who also resigned) former Cardinal Andre Roberts. He can also help in the return game, or atleast gives us another option. He can play both outside and in the slot if needed. There’s been reported interest with former Texan Tight End Owen Daniels. He’s a reliable pass catcher but has had some injury troubles. He’d be a nice fall back for Jordan Reed if he were to miss time. They’d make a nice 2 TE set on passing downs. It was reported the Skins were interested in Darren Sproles and Steve Smith, so they are still looking to improve the weapons on offense.
So far I’m happy with how things have played out. We haven’t signed any big time names to huge contracts like usual. We’ve added alot of players who will help and add depth which is needed badly. One or two top tier free agents wouldn’t make this team a true contender. They are getting the most out of there CAP space this year. Lets hope Bruce can add 2 or 3 solid free agents who can help this team. Sometimes Quantity is better than Quality. Which is definitely the Redskins case who need so much help on the whole roster.